The stresses of recession and unemployment triggered by the global financial crash of 2008 led to a spike in suicides among men in Europe and North America.
New research published in the British Medical Journal showed the impact of the crisis led to nearly 5,000 additional suicides in 2009 compared to the norm. Nearly the entire increase can be attributed to men taking their own lives, according to the survey of data from 54 countries.
In the U.S. and Canada, male suicides jumped by nearly 9% in 2009, while newer members of the European Union, including Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, saw their male suicide rates spike by an average of 13.3%.
The results show suicides generally jumped when unemployment levels surged, particularly among men in countries that had previously enjoyed healthy employment levels.
Across North and South America, the largest spike in suicides was seen among 45 to 64-year old men. In Europe, 15 to 24-year old men were most affected.
And what about women? The data shows there was very little change in suicide levels among women. In Europe, there was no change at all, but countries in the Americas saw an average 2.3% rise in female suicides.
Researchers from universities in Hong Kong, Oxford and Bristol collaborated on the study, the first of its kind to look at international trends.
The results are consistent with previous research that shows economic downturns and rises in unemployment are followed by spikes in suicides.
The recorded suicide numbers may only be the tip of the iceberg. The researchers estimate that for every suicide, approximately 30 to 40 people make suicide attempts.
Another research report from 2009 estimates that the Asian financial crisis in 1997-1998 led to over 10,000 extra suicides in Japan, Hong Kong and Korea.